Iran sanc­tions bill be­comes law with­out Obama sig­na­ture.

Be­comes law sans Obama’s pen

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVE BOYER

Pres­i­dent Obama al­lowed a bill ex­tend­ing sanc­tions against Iran for 10 years to be­come law with­out his sig­na­ture early Thurs­day, back­ing away from ear­lier in­di­ca­tions by the White House that he would sign the mea­sure.

The White House said the law will not af­fect im­ple­men­ta­tion of the in­ter­na­tional deal lim­it­ing Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram.

“This ad­min­is­tra­tion has made clear that an ex­ten­sion of the Iran Sanc­tions Act, while un­nec­es­sary, is en­tirely con­sis­tent with our com­mit­ments in the Joint Com­pre­hen­sive Plan of Ac­tion,” White House press sec­re­tary Josh Earnest said in a state­ment. “Con­sis­tent with this long-stand­ing po­si­tion, the ex­ten­sion of the Iran Sanc­tions Act is be­com­ing law with­out the pres­i­dent’s sig­na­ture.”

In re­sponse to the U.S. sanc­tions move, Iran or­dered its sci­en­tists on Tues­day to start de­vel­op­ing sys­tems for nu­clear-pow­ered marine ves­sels.

That ac­tion by Tehran is ex­pected to stoke ten­sions with Wash­ing­ton, al­ready height­ened by Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s vow to scrap the deal un­der which Iran curbed its nu­clear fuel pro­duc­tion ac­tiv­i­ties in ex­change for re­lief from eco­nomic sanc­tions.

The White House had said pre­vi­ously that Mr. Obama would likely sign the bill, but the mid­night dead­line came and went Thurs­day with no ap­proval from the pres­i­dent. Mr. Obama’s move doesn’t pre­vent the sanc­tions re­newal from go­ing into ef­fect, although it was ap­par­ently meant to sig­nal his dis­ap­proval for law­mak­ers’ ac­tions.

The White House has ar­gued that the re­newal isn’t needed be­cause the ad­min­is­tra­tion re­tains other au­thor­i­ties to pun­ish Iran, if it vi­o­lates the terms of the deal. The ad­min­is­tra­tion has ex­pressed con­cern that the re­newal may un­der­mine the nu­clear deal.

“The ad­min­is­tra­tion has, and con­tin­ues to use, all of the nec­es­sary au­thor­i­ties to waive the rel­e­vant sanc­tions” lifted as part of the nu­clear deal, Mr. Earnest said.

Mr. Earnest said the pres­i­dent in­tended his ac­tion partly as a warn­ing to Congress not to un­ravel the nu­clear deal af­ter he leaves of­fice.

“This is part of a mes­sage we’re send­ing to Congress, and it’s sim­ply this: If Congress does blow up the deal that pre­vents Iran from ob­tain­ing a nu­clear weapon, they’re go­ing to have to deal with the con­se­quences, and the con­se­quences are grave,” Mr. Earnest said.

Un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion, the pres­i­dent has 10 days af­ter Congress passes a bill to sign it, veto it or do noth­ing. If Congress has ad­journed, fail­ing to sign it is a “pocket veto” that pre­vents the bill from be­com­ing law. But if Congress is still in ses­sion, the bill be­comes law with no sig­na­ture. Although law­mak­ers have re­turned home for the hol­i­days, Congress tech­ni­cally is still in ses­sion and hold­ing “pro-forma” ses­sions this week.

Iran had vowed to re­spond if the sanc­tions were re­newed, ar­gu­ing they vi­o­late the nu­clear deal be­tween Iran and world pow­ers, which eased sanc­tions in ex­change for curbs on Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram. Iran’s govern­ment has com­plained to the United Na­tions about the re­newal, and on Tues­day, Iran’s pres­i­dent or­dered up plans to build nu­clear-pow­ered ships and to for­mally ac­cuse the U.S. of vi­o­lat­ing the terms of the deal.

Law­mak­ers ar­gued that re­new­ing the law, first passed in 1996 and re­newed sev­eral times since, was crit­i­cal to main­tain­ing pres­sure on Iran to abide by the deal and to push­ing back on Tehran’s other trou­bling be­hav­ior in the re­gion. The bill passed the Se­nate unan­i­mously and the House by an over­whelm­ing mar­gin.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion stressed that Iran would be un­af­fected by the re­newal, as long as it con­tin­ues hon­or­ing the nu­clear deal. Sec­re­tary of State John F. Kerry said he had told his Ira­nian coun­ter­part that “to en­sure max­i­mum clar­ity,” he had is­sued new, re­dun­dant waivers ex­empt­ing Iran from sanc­tions lifted un­der the deal.

“Ex­ten­sion of the Iran Sanc­tions Act does not af­fect in any way the scope of the sanc­tions re­lief Iran is re­ceiv­ing un­der the deal or the abil­ity of com­pa­nies to do busi­ness in Iran con­sis­tent with the JCPOA,” Mr. Kerry said, us­ing an acro­nym for the nu­clear deal.

Mr. Trump has crit­i­cized the nu­clear deal and has promised to try to rene­go­ti­ate it, and Is­rael’s prime min­is­ter has said he plans to lobby Mr. Trump to undo the deal. Repub­li­can sup­port­ers of the sanc­tions had ar­gued that re­new­ing them would en­sure that Mr. Trump would have the au­thor­ity to re­in­state penal­ties that Mr. Obama eased.

Un­der the nu­clear deal, the U.S. and world pow­ers sus­pended sweep­ing oil, trade and other fi­nan­cial sanc­tions that had dev­as­tated Iran’s econ­omy. In ex­change, Tehran agreed to roll back its nu­clear pro­gram, though the deal’s crit­ics say the agree­ment is flawed be­cause it didn’t halt all Ira­nian ac­tiv­ity and be­cause key re­stric­tions even­tu­ally ex­pire.

● This ar­ti­cle is based in part on wire-ser­vice reports.

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